A Trans-Tasman chasm
A match that began with the pitch bringing the teams together on the first two days ended by showing the gulf between them. While Australia's ranking is being seasonally adjusted after a decade of dominance, New Zealand's spot at seventh, one ahead of West Indies, accurately reflects their position in the game.
The visiting bowlers are bright and lively on favourable surfaces but as the series heads to Adelaide for the second game their opening has closed. In the moist conditions at the Gabba they shocked the home batsmen, dropping them for 214 in the first innings and 6 for 131 at stumps on the second day. As the pitch dried out New Zealand's hopes quickly evaporated and the 149-run defeat was confirmed before lunch on the fourth morning. With their under-qualified batting order, they will do well not to finish the two-game series with another loss in Adelaide.
Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder appear to be the only ones who can stand up to Australia's improving bowling attack. The openers Jamie How and Aaron Redmond combined for 27 runs in the game, which immediately exposed the more talented middle and once it departed there was no room for a recovery. With such slim resources, New Zealand need to manage them well if they are to compete, but there is unlikely to be much change.
The defensive Daniel Flynn contributed in both innings, but is not someone who can alter the plans of the attack, while Grant Elliott's selection as a specialist batsman at No. 7 is a strange option. Brendon McCullum, a player capable of changing a game, should slip back a spot or two from No. 5 to gain the most from his powers, but it is not something Daniel Vettori will consider for long before Friday.
"Probably mid-series it might be a tough one to change, but certainly it's something you always have to reinvestigate," Vettori said. "When you make changes you want them to work and we had an initial period when Brendon batted really well in England, but he hasn't had good results since then."
Starting the day at 6 for 143, the tourists were dismissed in 48 minutes as Australia won their first game since beating West Indies in July. The feeling was of relief following the troubles of India, but it was not a performance that could eliminate the growing doubts over their long-term path.
"By no means are we getting carried away with the win," Ricky Ponting said. "It's been a good win, but we've still identified that there are some areas we need to improve."
Australia did well to recover so strongly after losing the toss on a challenging surface, but they have their own form issues with the bat, starting with Matthew Hayden. He will go to Adelaide to play his 100th Test and it will help determine how long he stays with the side. Australia still need his strength at the top of the order, but there is an urgency to know whether his powers faded fully following his winter spent rehabilitating from an Achilles injury.
Ponting is not in doubt over the value of his team-mate and expects him to be in England for the 2009 Ashes. Hayden scored 8 and 0 at the Gabba, but Ponting was pleased to turn up to the ground on the third day and see Hayden had been batting for an hour in the nets. "Skills-wise and hunger-wise, Matthew Hayden is definitely our best opener and will be until he wants to finish," Ponting said.
Shane Watson has been dropped from the squad and the offspinner Jason Krejza should come into the side for the second Test while the wicketkeeper Brad Haddin will also come under increasing scrutiny following another subdued performance. Despite the individual questions, Ponting was content to register some success to boost the team morale.
"It will be great for us," Ponting said. "For a lot of the younger guys coming back from a long, hard tour of India and probably having their confidence knocked around a little bit. And even some of the more senior guys ... But we can't get carried away with this result. If we didn't take wickets with the new ball last night we could have had a real tough game on our hands."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo